Private Flohr’s Other Life

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In a letter dated August 1, 1799, Flohr informed his friend Paul Henkel of Winchester of his safe arrival in western Virginia. That letter, one of about twenty in existence, which I received through the courtesy of Klaus Wust, a leading authority on Germans in colonial Virginia, established the final link between Private Flohr and Reverend Flohr. Handwriting experts who compared samples from the Revolutionary War diary and the letters all agree that they are the work of one author. Flohr’s letters reveal the usual problems that a new pastor might encounter, but he seems to have taken them in stride. Martin Kimmerling, he wrote, “played the hypocritical flute” (i.e., was pouting) because nobody had voted for him during the recent elections of church elders and deacons. Then there was young John Koppenhoffer who had gotten two women pregnant: “He does not deny it, but does not want to marry either of them.”

Within a year of his arrival he had baptized eighty-nine children and confirmed fifty-four more. In early 1801 Flohr, though still two years away from being ordained, was serving at least six churches in three counties. In addition, he headed four schools, practiced medicine, and had to involve himself in planning the church where he was later buried.

Further digging in county records revealed that on October 5, 1802, Flohr married a local girl named Elizabeth Holsapple. Six years later he bought forty-seven acres in Wytheville and built a house. Since he and Elizabeth had no children, they adopted Polly Hutzle around 1810; ten years later the infant Elizabeth Kegley joined the family.

On April 30, 1826, four months short of his seventieth birthday, George Daniel Flohr died, deeply mourned by the congregations he had served faithfully for twenty-five years. As a token of respect Lawrence Krone, a local stone carver and member of the German Reformed Church, donated the monument for Flohr’s grave.

 

Even today “Father Flohr,” as he is affectionately called in his adopted town, has not been forgotten. There are plans to turn his home into a historical museum, and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church in Wytheville, with which St. John’s merged in 1924, still owns some of Flohr’s hymnals and recently established a St. John’s room in its parsonage. And every year on St. John’s Day, the third Sunday in August, a special service is held on the grounds of Wytheville’s old church to honor the original St. John’s and its first pastor, the onetime soldier Georg Daniel Flohr.